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Google Tests A Software That Judges Hollywood's Portrayal of Women 321

Slashdot reader theodp writes: Aside from it being hosted in a town without a movie theater, the 2016 Bentonville Film Festival was also unusual in that it required all entrants to submit "film scripts and downloadable versions of the film" for judgment by "the team at Google and USC", apparently part of a larger Google-funded research project with USC Engineering "to develop a computer science tool that could quickly and efficiently assess how women are represented in films"...

Fest reports noted that representatives of Google and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy appeared in a "Reel vs. Real Diversity" panel presentation at the fest, where the importance of diversity and science to President Obama were discussed, and the lack of qualified people to fill 500,000 U.S. tech jobs was blamed in part on how STEM careers have been presented in film and television... In a 2015 report on a Google-sponsored USC Viterbi School of Engineering MacGyver-themed event to promote women in engineering, USC reported that President Obama was kept briefed on efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women. As for its own track record, Google recently updated its Diversity page, boasting that "21% of new hires in 2015 were women in tech, compared to 19% of our current population"....
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Google Tests A Software That Judges Hollywood's Portrayal of Women

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  • Morons (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:37PM (#52787177)
    Why do people think things like the Bechdel test are worth more than a fart in the breeze/
    • Re:Morons (Score:5, Informative)

      by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:41PM (#52787189)

      As usual, we can get the answer from The Simpsons:
      It's because they're stupid, that's why. That's why everybody does everything.

    • Re:Morons (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @10:05PM (#52787291)

      Well, that is really quite simple to answer.

      While you keep the general masses divided over issues where they can point the finger at each other as being at fault..
      And while you can, as central government, say 'oh no! that is terrible! let me make some new regulations to help' without impacting your own plans..
      The sheeple are just so much easier to heard.

      Then throw in a nice big serving of 'mass media profit is maximised when content gets an emotional reaction' (just about any reaction will do).

      And not to mention a little 'my life is actually very easy and I feel inside I am achieving nothing, but if I yearn for a cause, I am moving the world!'

      Does that answer your question?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Did you notice that this story has been tagged "jews"? It's not Google that is trying to divide the world up or get an emotional reaction.

    • Re:Morons (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @10:06PM (#52787295)

      Why do people think things like the Bechdel test are worth more than a fart in the breeze/

      Because you think the Bechdel test is a poor measure of female portrayal in movies, or because you don't think having substantial female characters is important?

      • I think the Bechdel test is interesting and fairly useful unless / until writers start putting scenes in specifically to satisfy the test. Its only one of many possible tests of course and doesn't by itself provide full information.

    • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @11:43PM (#52787547) Journal

      Technology to analyze and transform gender disparities in media
      Problem

      Women are outnumbered by men three to one in the U.S. media and five to one in careers behind the camera. Additionally, women are six times more likely to be depicted in sexually suggestive clothing or partially nude in family films. Over the long term, these negative images can contribute to poor academic performance, body image issues, and less promising life choices.

      Soo...
      Woman showing skin in movie is presupposed as negative. Female skin is skin of evil.
      Skin of evil "contributes" to bad grades, "body image issues" and will fuck up lives of people who see it.

      Basically... women are witches who should be wearing burkas so as not to ruin people's lives, cause bad grades or mental issues with "body image".
      It's the only way to be sure.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by denzacar ( 181829 )

        Technology to analyze and transform gender disparities in media
        Problem

        Women are outnumbered by men three to one in the U.S. media and five to one in careers behind the camera. Additionally, women are six times more likely to be depicted in sexually suggestive clothing or partially nude in family films. Over the long term, these negative images can contribute to poor academic performance, body image issues, and less promising life choices.

        Soo...
        Woman showing skin in movie is presupposed as negative. Female skin is skin of evil.
        Skin of evil "contributes" to bad grades, "body image issues" and will fuck up lives of people who see it.

        Basically... women are witches who should be wearing burkas so as not to ruin people's lives, cause bad grades or mental issues with "body image".
        It's the only way to be sure.

        And a special "Well hello there - AGAIN!" to my down-moderator for voicing his/her disagreement with reality by down modding my original

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@NOSPAM.world3.net> on Monday August 29, 2016 @05:37AM (#52788325) Homepage Journal

          Read it again. They don't say "female skin is evil".

          Generally speaking there are lots of diverse roles for men in movies. All sizes, good looking, average, and they are generally not required to be provided some eye candy for a presumed straight male audience.

          On the other hand it really looks like to succeed as a woman in Hollywood you have to be hot and willing to flaunt your sexuality. Nothing wrong with doing that per-se, but when it becomes a virtual requirement...

          • Melissa McCarthy would probably disagree. I will admit that women that are not hot and flaunting their sexuality typically only succeed in comedies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Technology to analyze and transform gender disparities in media
        Problem

        Women are outnumbered by men three to one in the U.S. media and five to one in careers behind the camera. Additionally, women are six times more likely to be depicted in sexually suggestive clothing or partially nude in family films. Over the long term, these negative images can contribute to poor academic performance, body image issues, and less promising life choices.

        Soo...
        Woman showing skin in movie is presupposed as negative. Female skin is skin of evil.
        Skin of evil "contributes" to bad grades, "body image issues" and will fuck up lives of people who see it.

        Basically... women are witches who should be wearing burkas so as not to ruin people's lives, cause bad grades or mental issues with "body image".
        It's the only way to be sure.

        No. Example: a scene where a woman is dressing not done in a sexually suggestive manner isn't a problem. I wouldn't think a scene where a woman breastfeeds a baby with boobs and nipple(s) showing to be a problem either but the US puritans do. I don't think full nudity for either men or women is a problem and not even explicit sex scenes (if not done in an obvious pornographic manner).

        But almost always sexualizing the female body in combination with the choice of female actors (looks are everything with a fe

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, you don't like to see movies that cater just to women. Most women don't like to see movies that cater just to guys.

      Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      Because at the moment, the mass of the intellectually lazy and opportunists took over feminism and are flooding it with all their bad ideas brewed in their authoritarian safe spaces, and as a result, any sort of intelligent act that does actually help women gets buried in a pile of stupidity.

    • Who says they do?

      The Bechdel test was "a little lesbian joke in an alternative feminist newspaper." It has helped to promote discussion, but it's never going to provide an answer.

      It's like the Drake Equation. That was only ever meant to stimulate discussion. It was never meant to be a practical tool, and anyone who uses it as one is missing the point.

    • Why do people think things like the Bechdel test are worth more than a fart in the breeze/

      For the same reason they think "the lack of qualified people to fill 500,000 U.S. tech jobs" has anything to do with "how STEM careers have been presented in film and television" instead of the fact that the primary "qualification" being looked for is H1-B eligibility.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:47PM (#52787213)
    >> USC reported that President Obama was kept briefed on efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals

    Aha - so THAT'S what he was doing when the terrorists overran Benghazi... :)
  • by Time_Ngler ( 564671 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:48PM (#52787219)

    The only acceptable algorithm the program could give would be:

    10 PRINT "THIS SCRIPT PORTRAYS WOMEN POORLY."
    20 GOTO 10

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      You forgot to include a nice MS-DOS Abort? Retry? Fail loop in there for good measure.

    • This is a probabalistic algorithm, not a deterministic one. It does not always give the correct answer, but does so with high probability.

      • (and by deterministic I mean deterministically gives the correct answer, in the sense that 'while true { print ("sexist"); } is not an effective procedure which always gives the correct answer in finite time and halts, not 'can be implemented on a deterministic machine'.)

        Your 'algorithm' has two flaws: first, it loops indefinitely for all inputs, rather than halting for all inputs as an algorithm must, and then sometimes it yields incorrect answers (for example I don't believe Happy Feet does a poor job of

        • for example I don't believe Happy Feet does a poor job of portraying women

          I don't know man. Some of those lady penguins were pretty damn suggestive, if ya know what I mean.

  • Of course (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm certain the results of this experiment will be 100% fair and unbiased in any way, and everyone will agree with the results and come to a greater understanding.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:52PM (#52787241) Homepage Journal

    More beautiful than average, and more extreme in one trait or another.

    • More handsome than average, and more extreme in one trait or another.

    • "Jane Got A Gun", a western starring Natalie Portman, is finally streaming on Netflix. Now, there's a move where the woman is not only more beautiful than average, but more extreme in every trait!

      Where [bang]! Is [bang]! My [bang]! CHILD [bang]!

      Yikes! She sure made me a believer in that character. Actually because Portman is really much more beautiful than average, they wrote that into the script and made it a plot element. Pretty smart.

      A very enjoyable movie. I don't care a whistle about gender equality in

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:53PM (#52787249)

    I am thinking of that recent Twitter AI that turned into a bigot in less than a day because -- lo and behold -- GIGO. If the output must be that all films must look like the demographic national survey rather than how people tend to cluster, you could end up with no end of weird conclusions and data skews. For example, a film with a minority person in a wheel chair in a leadership role may skew the data more than a gay man. Moreover, let us say for instance, the first film is crap and the second one is good, but because he's beaten up as the film's about gay bashing, then might the latter score worse because he's a portrayed as a victim?

  • by Derekloffin ( 741455 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @09:58PM (#52787263)
    Seriously? Trying to say X is a good portrayal of anything seems like a completely subjective thing to me and further practical impossible on any single element. Any portrayal can potentially be bad if it is overused, while at the same time any portrayal can potentially be fine so long as it is used in appropriate balance, but you can't determine either of things looking at an individual production. Likewise the standard for what exactly is a good or bad thing are basically totally subjective, especially in fiction. A complete cold bloodied murderer can be an excellent character, while a total altruist and general humanitarian can be a terrible character.
  • How many softwares do you have?

  • by Sqreater ( 895148 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @10:21PM (#52787333)
    Of course, let's have history-changing, gender-leveling gender-pandering required in every movie, just like in "Halt and Catch Fire". We CAN propagandize our way toward filling those 500,000 tech jobs. We just have to lie about reality strongly enough and long enough to change it to suit us.
  • ... a movie [imdb.com] with no women in it. I wonder how Google would rate it.

  • Google does what they want, they are a company and pursue what they perceive as their interests (the sick bastards), but government involvement is disturbing as it simply points, yet again..., to an entity that is so far beyond any conceivable mandate that we are dealing with a pure instrument of power, and we better hope the wrong people don't get at the levers (...)

    Because here is the rub: Hollywood depiction of women is, in the aggregate, whatever the fuck the movie watching wants it be, generally, so th

    • here is the rub: Hollywood depiction of women is, in the aggregate, whatever the fuck the movie watching wants it be

      Not at all, you're greatly underestimating the influence of the major movie studios. Americans fork out their $12 tickets and watch pretty much whatever Hollywood shoves down their throat. Assuming Hollywood creates movies based on a democratic and unbiased worldview of the aggregate U.S. viewing public is incredibly naive.

      • 'Not at all' is as naive as your depiction of my belief:

        "Hollywood creates movies based on a democratic and unbiased worldview of the aggregate U.S. viewing public"

        That's an overstatement. Hollywood is in the aggregate trying to get people to watch. There output is a model. Not perfect or even very good, but that's what it is. Government has no legitimate mandate to be 'studying' it.

    • Because here is the rub: Hollywood depiction of women is, in the aggregate, whatever the fuck the movie watching wants it be,

      Seems unlikely.

      Hollywood's general depiction of women is whatever they *believe* will make money. In fact their depiction of just about everything is whatever they believe will make money. Why else do you think we have so many sequels, prequels and reboots? Oh and yet another identikit ensemble cast sperhero movie.

      • You are right. We can only with with models and proxies. What Hollywood believes people want to to see in the aggregate is probably the best model we have for what people want to see. They have the most data, and the most interest and the most experience in that field of inquiry. Yes, they do their pet projects, but those projects probably more closely track the views of our enlightened betters in D.C.

        But the point is the same, this government mission to bring the governed in line with the prevailing notion

    • Because here is the rub: Hollywood depiction of women is, in the aggregate, whatever the fuck the movie watching wants it be

      No it's not. The Hollywood depiction of...everything...is whatever the writers and studio execs want it to be. For a long, long time the values of Hollywood and the values of the people in the flyover states have not been congruent at all. In Hollywood Christianity is bad, gays are good, blacks are doctors, the criminals are white, and everybody screws on the first date and no problems result from this. That ain't how they do things in Oklahoma.

  • Bechdel Test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @11:26PM (#52787505) Homepage

    All this talk about the Bechdel test reminds me of the Galbrush Paradox [thisisvideogames.com], a related mess that was codified during GamerGate. During a discussion of noted con artist Anita Sarkeesian -- who has managed to run TWO wildly successful Kickstarter scams stealing close to half a million dollars from rubes -- and her completely unobtainable standards for female characters:

    Absolutely not. If you can't tell a two bit con artist from one of your own, you really need to clean up your movement before you start 'suggesting' anything.

    But maybe you're just naive and don't understand the problem. Do you know why there's so many white male characters in video games? Especially leads? Because no one cares about them.

    A white male can be a lecherous drunk. A woman can't or it's sexist. Sexualizing women and what all. A white male can be a mentally disturbed soldier who's mind is unraveling as he walks through the hell of the modern battleeld. A woman can't or you're victimizing women and saying they're all crazy.

    Consider Guybrush Threepwood, start of the Monkey Island series. He's weak, socially awkward, cowardly, kind of a nerd and generally the last person you'd think of to even cabin boy on a pirate ship, let alone captain one. He is abused, verbally and physically, mistreated, shunned, hated and generally made to feel unwanted.

    Now let's say Guybrush was a girl. We'll call her Galbrush. Galbrush is weak, socially awkward, cowardly, kind of a nerd and generally the last person you'd think of to even cabin boy on a pirate ship, let alone captain one. She is abused, verbally and physically, mistreated, shunned, hated and generally made to feel unwanted.

    Now, you might notice that I've given the exact same description to both of these characters. But here's where things deviate. While no one cares if Guybrush takes a pounding for being, for lack of a better term, less than ideal pirate, Galbrush will be presumed to be discriminated against because of her gender. In fact, every hardship she will endure, though exactly the same as the hardships Guybrush endured, will be considered misogyny, rather than someone being ill suited to their desired calling.

    And that ending. She goes through ALL that trouble to help, let's call him Eli Marley, escape the evil clutches of the ghost piratess Le Chuck, it turns out he didn't even need her help and she even screwed up his plan to thwart Le Chuck. Why, it'd be a slap in the face to every woman who's ever picked up a controller. Not only is the protagonist inept, but apparently women make lousy villains too!

    And that's why Guybrush exists and Galbrush doesn't. Men can be comically inept halfwits. Women can't. Men can be flawed, tragic human beings. Women can't. And why? Because every single female character reects all women everywhere.

    The horrible truth ls you and Sarkeesian want to craft a box into which you can force every female character into. Some idiotic 'ideal'. Putting aside the stupidity of exchanging one unobtainable role model for women with another, this has the added problem of making all female characters exactly the same. And when all characters are exactly the same, that's boring And boring characters do not sell video games.

    And when applied to film, this is why the Bechdel test fails. Because writing female characters is an identity politics minefield, and trying to give them any character development other than talking about the characters you ARE allowed to take risks with or write as less than perfect gets you in trouble with idiots writing for The Mary Sue or Jezebel, who then rile up a lynch mob at you.

    • noted con artist Anita Sarkeesian

      Nice accusation you've got going there. Got any evidence?

      Nah of course you haven't!

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday August 29, 2016 @05:18AM (#52788247)

        Aside of her collecting money for movies she didn't make, and then ask for more dough? Nope.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          You mean these videos [youtube.com], the ones that more than fulfil her original Kickstarter promises, and all the stretch goals, and a bonus season 2 of shorter videos and game reviews?

          Tropes vs Women is one of the few times that a Kickstarter campaign massively exceeded its goals and then actually delivered.

        • Aside of her collecting money for movies she didn't make, and then ask for more dough? Nope.

          Her kickstarter promised create five 10-20 minute videos. I believe that was bumped to 12 as more funding poured in. So far, she has produced 14 videos and it's still going. A bit of sampling suggests they're more like 20-30 minuted in length.

          IOW you're simply lying about her.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Consider Guybrush Threepwood, start of the Monkey Island series. He's weak, socially awkward, cowardly, kind of a nerd and generally the last person you'd think of to even cabin boy on a pirate ship, let alone captain one. He is abused, verbally and physically, mistreated, shunned, hated and generally made to feel unwanted.

      I don't think you have actually played that game.

      Guybrush is full of bravado. He becomes an expert sword fighter early in the game, beating the Sword Master (who happens to be female). He becomes a captain about mid way through, owning his own boat that he bought with his own money from Stan the used boat salesman. He manages to round up a crew, he's fearless (even if it's due to shear recklessness much of the time).

      And yes, he is a comical idiot at times. He has romantic notions of saving Marley, but she d

  • "A software" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @11:45PM (#52787555)
    Come on, editors, really? Shall I say to my friends, "Today I saw an interesting news on slashdot."
    • Depends. How long ago was this hypothetical taking place? I don't recall saying anything like that lately, but back in the late 90s, I saw a story about a self-driving Linux car... That was an interesting news.

      (For you 12 digit UID kids, back in the 90s, Linux was new and cool. Oh, and 90s cars wouldn't stop themselves to avoid a brick wall, much less cruise around town on their own.)

    • No, because it's very rare to see an interesting news on slashdot most days.

      • That's because there is no more interesting news. It's either a minor evolutionary change or someone "discovering" what was new 60 years ago, but fell out of disuse because people got bored of it.
  • Really? How would you calibrate such a thing? And how would you ensure such calibration wasn't biased itself?
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday August 29, 2016 @12:00AM (#52787595) Journal

    Russia has INVADED and IS OCCUPYING a neighboring country (one they laughingly signed a note to protect, no less).
    China is essentially playing Age of Empires 2 in the South China sea, grabbing territory by building watchtowers and not giving a fuck about what anyone thinks.
    The EU is disintegrating as people start to realize manually bolting countries together doesn't actually make them act like a single country.
    Our economy is a sham based on completely phony numbers, contrived to enrich a tiny cadre of elites that drift in and out of power (always making more money with each step) like minglers at a garden party.
    Our media is essentially a giant cumrag, soaked and dripping with the lowest-common-denominator vulgarity and venality.
    We have one candidate for president that is a COMPLETE ASS and a know nothing buffoon who's like a cartoon character of himself, while the other candidate is corrupt to the very soul of her being, if she HAD a soul.

    And what we're worrying about is whether films fairly represent women?

    Where the fuck are the Visigoths to come climbing over OUR walls? Seriously, it's about time. If Rome was like this near the end, they probably welcomed it.

    • We are allowed to worry about more than one thing at a time.

    • Where the fuck are the Visigoths to come climbing over OUR walls? Seriously, it's about time. If Rome was like this near the end, they probably welcomed it.

      Those would be the Mexicans and the Muslims.

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Monday August 29, 2016 @02:53AM (#52787987)

    It would be very interesting to find a way to quantify bias in media. I don't know if its possible, but it sounds hard. OTOH, self-driving cars sounded hard as well and they seem to be becoming a reality.

    Last time I posted a req for a high level RF engineer, I got ~100 applications from men and 2 from women. If only for selfish reasons I'd like more women learning the skills that I need.

    I've been working in a high tech field for a quarter century now and I do see a problem the way women are treated in many places. The problems are not universal, and there is a lot of variety, but it exists. It difficult to separate cause and effect but more information would be helpful.

  • As if men aren't protrayed like stereotypes.. All genders and ethnic/religious groups are portrayed like stereotypes in movies..
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday August 29, 2016 @05:13AM (#52788235)

    It's simple as that: If movies with women in lead roles attract audiences, they will be made. If not, well, then not.

    A few might have heard about the Ghostbusters reboot. Well? How did it fare? Erh... yeah. It did mostly recover its production cost. Did it recover its total cost including advertising? Probably not. Will it ever? It looks doubtful.

    In the end, what counts is the bottom line. Michael Bay makes horrible movies. Scripts that fit on a legal page, and since film isn't being developed anymore, you can't even make that joke about character development in his movies anymore. They are, by and large, crap. But they sell. Flashy effects and gimmicks is what the audience wants and that's what the audience gets, and his movies are one success after the next.

    Like it, hate it, in the end, what matters is just the bottom line. Not the message, not the lasting value, not how much you wish to "empower" or "liberate" anyone or anything, people don't give a shit about this. They want to be entertained when they go into a movie.

    And movie studios don't give a shit about your message or agenda either. They want your movie to make money.

  • def IsThisMovieSexist(movie):
          return True

    Won't be accurate for all movies, but gets the answer right with a high degree of probability.

  • by inhuman_4 ( 1294516 ) on Monday August 29, 2016 @08:48AM (#52788879)
    The central problem with projects like this is the result is already determined. They've already decided that movies are horribly sexist before the first line of code was written. Think about it. What if, after detailed analysis, it was determined that there is no problem, that women and men are treated roughly equal? What happens then? It can't happen, it wouldn't be acceptable. The funding would dry up, and they would be shutdown. It would be like the NRA releasing a study saying guns are bad. And good luck getting funding in the future, if you can't produce results that affirm what we "know to be true" then clearly you are a terrible researcher.
  • When you have circa 90 minutes to tell a story, you pretty much have to resort to stereotypes or else spend all your limited time on exposition.

The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.

Working...